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Observer Corps Report

Eileen Marshall | Published on 12/29/2020

Johnson County Board of County Commissioners

Meeting dates: Nov. 19 through Dec. 10 (most recent appears first)

Observers: Lenore Rowe, Joan Gilson, Jerry Gilson


These observations were conducted online through the Johnson County, KS On Base program and through FaceBook Live (closed captioned) because of COVID-19. The meeting was conducted via ZOOM because of the pandemic. For more information see


Dec. 10, 2020


Public Comments

All public comments are to be submitted in writing or via telephone at least two days prior to the meeting. Future meetings will be held by Zoom up until and including the Jan. 14 meeting. The Board created a committee consisting of commissioners Hanzlick, Ashcraft and Chairperson Eilert to construct a plan for equal access to public comment opportunities through remote media. The plan needs to allow the Board sufficient time to consider agenda items submitted by County residents as well as to allow equitable access for public comments. For today’s meeting, written comments were distributed to Board members ahead of time. 


Action Agenda

The Commission approved a motion to purchase a mobile clinic to use for COVID-19 testing, an item funded by a state grant. The grant also allows for clinic use as a vaccination site. A project to update the County’s Strategic Facilities Master Plan to evaluate the uses of County space and properties was approved for additional funding in the amount of $600,000, for a total of $2,100,000.  In addition, a contract was authorized with Walters-Morgan to construct the Rock Creek, Martway, and 75th and Nall Pump Station improvements, not to exceed $4,583,800. The cost of these improvements fall under County Waste Water and are not reflected in property taxes. 


Reports and Communications

COVID-19 Funding and Expense Report: Approximately $1.6 million has been paid out in grants through the Enterprise Center, with some funds still available for distribution to small businesses before the end of 2020


COVID-19 Update: Dr. Areola reported that the Thanksgiving surge is underway, as well as the resulting increase in hospitalizations with KU Medical Center reporting the highest numbers yet. Schools and public health facilities are capacity stressed, experiencing staffing challenges. Testing is scheduled to increase to 1,000 per day; information on test sites is at Tests are available at Church of the Resurrection, Johnson County Community College, and Shawnee Mission North High School.  Twenty-four thousand doses of Pfizer vaccine are scheduled to be shipped directly to Johnson County providers soon for administration to healthcare workers and long term care facilities. Epidemiologist Elizabeth Holzschuh reported that waste water testing for the virus is underway, with reports pending. 


Dec. 3, 2020


Action Agenda

A number of items were approved, including a proposal for an internal audit of County programs for remote telework and micro transit. An agreement allowing MED-ACT to co-locate in a new fire station in Edgerton for 20 years in exchange for a one-time payment of $1,000,000 was also approved. The 2021 Johnson County State Legislative Platform supporting Medicaid Expansion in Kansas, Home Rule, et al. was adopted by a vote of four to three. Press Release.


Reports and Communications

2020 Census Recognition: The county reported a 99.9% response rate on the Census, thanking a number of local organizations, including Karen Wulfkuhle, Johnson County League of Women Voters. 

COVID-19 Update: Dr. Areola reported that the COVID-19 positivity rate in Johnson County is currently at 14.6% and likely to trend upward in the next few weeks, challenging public health capacity. All secondary schools in the county are now remote, and the increasing number of cases at the elementary level is a concern. The Johnson County Department of Health and Environment is participating in the local planning and distribution process for vaccines, expecting approximately 24,000 doses in the first phase. 


Nov. 19, 2020


Commissioner Mike Brown attended via Zoom. 


Public Comments

Residents and non-residents commented for the first two hours, the majority protesting mask orders, penalties, denying COVID numbers, stating that they had no intention of following any public ordinance.  The meeting was interrupted at the end of the comments by protesters walking quickly through the room shouting as the Commissioners left. 


Action Agenda

Chairperson Eilert requested and the Board approved moving item 16 to first on the agenda.  The Board approved this item, Resolution No. 108-20, establishing that noncompliance with a public health order by a business or public entity is a violation of Johnson County Code. This does not apply to individuals. This violation is enforceable in unincorporated areas with a $500 fine, and subject to a misdemeanor charge in Codes Court. The Resolution also authorizes the chairperson to sign agreements with cities in Johnson County for enforcement within city limits. The motion passed, four to three. 

The Board also voted to accept $187,877 for participation in RADX-UP, Improving the Response of Local Urban and Rural Communities to Disparities in COVID-19 Testing with the goal of increasing testing for underrepresented populations, persons of color, by 25 to 30%. 


Reports and Communications

COVID-19 Funding and Expense Reports: $1.2 million was distributed to school districts and food pantries. School districts funded distance learning equipment, PPE and other health expenses. The COVID-19 update by Dr. Areola was submitted in writing. 


Commission Comments

The Board voted to meet by Zoom on Dec. 3, 2020, the next meeting. (No meeting is scheduled for Nov. 26, Thanksgiving.) Commissioner Allen asked that comments be limited to ten persons, but the Board did not agree. Public comments are to be submitted in writing by noon, Dec. 2, 2020. Commissioner Hanzlick mentioned that commenters are already limited to those protesting public health measures because people with disabilities and disabled family members are unable to risk attending given the unmasked crowd in the close quarters of the lobby.  


Committee of the Whole

Nov. 19, 2020


The Board heard information about plans for the County Square, for food trucks and an outdoor little theater near the end of 2021, partly funded by local Rotary Clubs. 

Olathe School Board

Dec. 3, 2020

Submitted by Cindy Hicks

The Olathe School Board met for its regular monthly meeting. The following was discussed:

  1. The president of the board opened the meeting with the statement that no one on the board wanted to move to remote learning. The decision was due to one thing – community spread of the COVID virus. Two of the three gating criteria (incident rate and positive rate) were in the red zone, thus the move back to remote learning for the middle and high schools.

  2. The Superintendent discussed the challenge that all of the school districts in Johnson County are experiencing in regard to substitute teachers. The Olathe School District has on average a daily need of 140 to 290 substitute teachers. They started this year with 150 fewer substitute teachers than last year (many of the retired teachers decided not to sub this year due to COVID-19).

  3.  The Olathe school district’s financial audit and Single audit (audit of federal dollars expenditures) both received an unmodified opinion from the independent auditors (best opinion). 

To read more, click here.

City of Overland Park Committee of the Whole and City Council Meetings

Dec. 7, 2020

Submitted by Janet Milkovich

The Committee of the Whole met virtually with 11 members present and one absent. One council member abstained from voting on the State and National Legislative Programs due to a possible conflict of interest. The two agenda items were:

1. 2021 State Legislative Program was approved 10-0-1. 

“State and local governments work collaboratively to provide citizens with many public services. As a local branch of government, we understand our citizens’ needs and are better suited to respond to those needs effectively and efficiently. We respect state government’s role, but will continue to advocate for the protection of home rule authority to ensure our citizen’s needs are met. We favor governance at the local level and we support the following positions and will advocate for them on behalf of our community.”

“Support Maintenance of State Funding The issue of maintaining local government revenues is a prime concern for the City of Overland Park, particularly given the budget challenges at both the city and state level, and especially during the current COVID-19 pandemic. State transfers to local government have significantly been reduced or eliminated over the last twenty years. The City of Overland Park calls on the Legislature to meet its fiscal responsibilities to cities by maintaining and restoring state funding to local governments. The City supports a balanced state budget that does not rely on reductions in funding for local government; more specifically, the state should honor its partnership with local governments via alcoholic liquor tax funds and motor fuels tax receipts.”

See link below.

2. 2021 National Legislative Program was approved 10-0-1. See link below. There was discussion about changing language that pertained to the stated immigration policy to make it more inclusive, but it was decided to consider those changes for next year.

The City Council Meeting Followed. The council met virtually. Mayor Gerlach had an excused absence.

Public Comments

There were five public comments.

1. Two were requests for a mask mandate to be passed

2. A protest against professional photographers having to pay a fee when using public parks

3. One comment about a rezoning proposal

4. Clarification of the COVID Business order passed by the JoCo Board of County Commissioners 

After a robust discussion of the COVID Business order, Council passed Resolution 10820 by a vote of 9 in favor and 3 opposed. The OP police will visit businesses that are not in compliance with hours of operation, social distancing and/or mask compliance. The police department will use their time to educate the business owners and then file the infraction with the Commission who has the authority to assess a fine of $500.

The Council passed both the State and National Legislative Programs as recommended by the Committee of the Whole, by a vote of 10-0-1.

Council President Fred Spears recognized 10- year-old OP resident Jack Karpinski who raised $11,000 for food to help those in need.

Council member Paul Lyons recognized the Tunnel to Towers Foundation whose mission is to help pay the mortgages of Gold Star families (families who have lost a member while serving his/her county in the military). The foundation recently paid in full the mortgage of a home in OP for the Gold Star wife and daughter of an American hero. 

To read more, click here.

Prairie Village City Council Meeting

Dec. 7, 2020

Submitted by Nancy Kalikow Maxwell

The Prairie Village City Council met virtually on Monday, December 7, 2020. The meeting began with an update from First Washington Realty on developments and plans for the Village Shops, Corinth Square, and what will be known as Corinth Quarter, which should be completed in 2021. Because of the pandemic, the Council voted to hold off on considering any future action at this time on a civic center/library/YMCA project.

The Council voted to create a new position of Assistant City Administrator. Following the creation of this post, it was announced that the current Chief of Police, Tim Schwartzkopf, will assume this job upon his upcoming retirement from the police force. It was further announced that Deputy Chief of Police Byron Roberson will become Police Chief to replace him, making Roberson what is believed to be the first African-American Police Chief in Johnson County.

To read more, click here.